Pole fitness is a strength and endurance sport which focuses on a combination of gymnastics and dance techniques performed with pole equipment. Proponents of the exercise offering support that this unique program carries benefits of strengthening and conditioning, weight loss and confidence boosting at every level that the programs are taught. In the last two decades, pole fitness has moved towards being accepted in mainstream fitness and sports categories and has been passionately embraced by women and men all over the world looking for a fitness lifestyle that strengthened the inner and the outer self.
The differentiating factor in pole fitness from other dance based fitness programs is the component of lifting one’s own body weight to perform exercises on the pole. While it includes the cardio respiratory challenges of traditional dance programs, the added challenge of lifting body weight is a significant element to the variety of the program, lending it towards being a combination program made of resistance exercise along with cardio, rather than a typical dance exercise program which tends to be cardio dominant. It is well known in the fitness industry that combining cardio with resistance exercises is the best element for weight loss, rather than cardio alone. It is important to include resistance training in any fitness regime to build muscle and boost metabolism to increase overall results.
For those that excel at pole fitness programs, there are competitive events which segment into expertise levels from amateur, fitness, professional and freestyle. These events draw performers from all over to come together in a culture of empowerment and fitness and add a competitive dimension to pole fitness differentiating it from an exercise class or dance performance goals. The recent Galveston Bay Pole Championships brought competitors from the Texas area and beyond this year.
It is generally accepted that pole fitness officially began in 1994 when the first pole studio was opened by Fawnia Dietrich in Las Vegas. Pole Fitness Studio is still in business today, offering lessons, classes, parties and workshops. Studios sprang up nationwide and the idea of pole fitness spread. By 2010, the International Pole Fitness Federation was created to unify the worldwide sport’s enthusiasts.
Locally, the Houston area has a significant population of pole fitness enthusiasts. Many gyms with dance outlets offer basic pole classes now and a significant number of pole fitness and aerial arts studios have been established in the last fifteen years as this fun fitness choice spreads like wildfire. Elevated, S Factor and TransforMe Fitness Studio are a few local choices with high ratings for beginner classes among others in our area.
Curious adventurers who are not ready to commit to a class in person might be interested in the video training programs which can be performed in the privacy of their home and might even watch free videos featured on YouTube channels set up to increase the awareness of the sport. The downside to this option is that the pole can be expensive and requires space for safe set up. Many find that it is less of an investment to take a class at a studio set up for teaching pole and with a live instructor who can help optimize the safety measures for the exercise.
“It’s an obsession and therapy, I crave it and I’ve never felt that way about working out before,” says Aria Watson, a Houston resident and mother of two, describing what pole fitness means to her. “I always liked the way that I felt after taking yoga, so I would just get through it. Pole is different, it is an expressive fitness and I feel better as soon as I touch the pole.”
Not every pole fitness participant wants pole fitness to move towards mainstream fitness categories. The conflicting opinion about the forward evolution of the industry comes from the segment of the pole fitness population that enjoys the element of underground counter culture and breaks the rules of traditional concepts of being fit and active. The appeal of the outside position unifies this group by their love of what they do. The secretiveness of these segments may contribute to some of the negative stigmas that associate pole fitness with the type of strip dancing that might occur in gentleman’s club establishments. In either side of the opinion on the future of pole fitness, the vast majorities of pole fitness enthusiasts take great exception to this blended definition and adamantly defend the difference.
“It’s not that everyone has to love it, but it’s really important to me that they know that I’m not stripping,” Aria states in response to such negative correlations. “You would have to have someone attend a strip club then come to a studio to see that it’s crystal clear that it’s completely different.”